FPA CEO Schadle Says Membership Has ‘Stabilized’

Reports uptick in CFP holders renewing their FPA membership as focus continues on finding “operational efficiencies’

Financial Planning Association CEO Lauren Schadle said during an interview on Monday that membership in the planner’s association has “stabilized” at the 23,000-plus mark, and reported a 4% increase in the retention rate among FPA members who are also CFPs.

As part of finding “operational efficiencies” in FPA, a focus Schadle announced when she took the reins of FPA last August from Marv Tuttle, Schadle argued that FPA realized it couldn't “be all things to all people.” She said that she and Mike Branham, the group’s 2013 president, and other board members looked at the “40-plus committees and councils” at the FPA and have “pared down” that list, with an eye toward determining what best could be accomplished by FPA staffers and what could best be handled by its member volunteers. When asked if she was pleased with the progress made in identifying those efficiencies, Schadle said, “I’m comfortable. But happy? Ask me in a year.” 

Regardless, Schadle said FPA would continue to focus on its CFP members, on fostering the diverse communities within the overall community of the FPA, on advocacy, professional education and on providing tools and resources to help members run stronger businesses. The group remains committed to “finding its value proposition” and communicating it to members and prospective members, “delivering benefits in the way that members want it.” Core to that value prop is the FPA community itself, seen in programs like Mentor Match, which connects veteran planners with younger advisors, and in reverse mentoring of those veterans by younger planners.

In the same interview, Branham cited himself as a beneficiary of the FPA’s peer-networking and career support capabilities. When he joined the wealth management firm Cornerstone Wealth Advisors in Edina, Minn., Cornerstone principal and noted advisor Jonathan Guyton “told me on the second day that I had to join FPA,” Branham joked. He did join FPA and became involved in NexGen, one of the FPA “communities of interest” that comprises younger planners. Branham became president of NexGen, a group he eventually “aged” out of before becoming a leader in FPA.

He joined the FPA Board in 2009 and became FPA president-elect last year before assuming his current leadership role. “My career wouldn’t have progressed as it has without membership in FPA,” he declares. Schadle suggested Branham’s experience showed not only why membership is important, but how its value changes over time. “People might join for different reasons than they stay,” she says.

Growth of FPA and finding a solution for the aging of the advisor force are intertwined as well, suggested Branham, citing the important role of FPA’s local chapters. “Some chapters have a stronger next-gen focus,” he said, noting in particular the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Seattle, Portland and Minnesota chapters. “Future growth will come from those chapters.”

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Read Strategies for CFP Board to Improve Continuing Education Credit by Michael Kitces on AdvisorOne.

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